MINE ACTION CAMBODIA – THOUNG BUNDOETH
“My name is Bundoeth and I have been the headmaster of Khna Phtol primary school for four years. There are 128 children at this school. The school is situated in the middle of what used to be live minefields, on the edge of the main road from Siem Reap. This area used to be a big military camp during the war, so a lot of landmines were hidden in the ground to defend it.
We marked the boundaries of the safe areas around the school for the children to stay secure, but we still occasionally found them playing outside the marks, or sneaking out there to retrieve a ball or a toy. Thankfully there have not been any accidents at the school, but many of the children are from families who have been affected.
This is a farming community and it is shocking to see the serious landmine injuries that happen to people working in their fields. Sometimes a child has to leave school to care for someone in his family who is injured. Sometimes they leave classes entirely because a family member is too injured to work and the child has to take their place. It is very sad to see them go and to know that from that point, their life will be hard work without an education and even basic qualifications.
This will stop now because the Cambodian Mine Action Center and their partner APOPO have cleared the mines around this area. Everyone is free to travel, work and play as they like without the constant underlying terror. I am still affected though. Even though I know the mines are gone, when I see the children playing in the fields I am still scared for them. I heard about the APOPO rats clearing mines. I’m not surprised because I know how well rodents can detect things with their sense of smell. For some people it sounds crazy, for me I don’t care. It worked and I know we are now safe from landmines. That’s all that counts.”